Positions up for grabs in ABs line-up

Beauden Barrett. Photo: Getty Images
Beauden Barrett. Photo: Getty Images

Richie Mo'unga. Photo: Getty Images
Richie Mo'unga. Photo: Getty Images
The Rugby Championship has wrapped up and the World Cup is less than a year away. But there are still plenty of spots up for grabs in the All Blacks' first-choice line-up. 

Here are some of the biggest selection questions.

Beauden or Richie?

There is no doubt Beauden Barrett is brilliant, but can he manage a tight game? Richie Mo'unga delivered his most convincing performance yet on Sunday, but is he proven enough at the top level? It would be a big call to drop, or move, Barrett. Opinion is still split on who the best option is and the coming months will be telling.

Who is the best midfield duo?

Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty are the most experienced pairing, but are injury-prone. Jack Goodhue keeps getting better and is going to be hard to leave out, while Anton Lienert-Brown is a solid option.

Where does Dane Coles fit in?

The hooker has not played since tearing his ACL against France in November last year. If he returns to 100% he slots back in as the starting hooker. But, after several false starts, is he one to count on for next year's World Cup? If he makes it back, what sort of form will he be in?

Ben Smith. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Ben Smith. Photo: Gregor Richardson
"Bender'' as back or on wing?

This one is clear-cut if you ask anyone from the South. Ben Smith is the best fullback in the world and that is where he should play. He is wasted on the wing and the alternatives are sparse anyway. Jordie Barrett is not good enough and Damian McKenzie does his damage off the bench. If Beauden Barrett moves back, that could create an interesting dynamic.

Can Brodie Retallick be replaced?

Sam Whitelock is exceptional and Scott Barrett has improved, but Retallick is a phenomenon. The lock was the team's best player before injuring his shoulder and his absence was plain to see against the Springboks. His physicality has been missed and when next year rolls around, the All Blacks will want him firing at his brutal best once again.

Who comes in for Sam Cane?

Ardie Savea takes the starting No7 jersey. After that the options are more sparse. Matt Todd is in Japan. Dillon Hunt would seem to be the option, having played for the side last year. Blake Gibson and James Lentjes' names have also cropped up. Either way, that is a fairly green bunch.


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